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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cash McCall (January 28, 1941 - April 20, 2019)

Cash McCall (January 28, 1941 - April 20, 2019)

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Cash McCall passed away on April 20, 2019 after a long and courageous battle with lung cancer. His gentle spirit, humble nature and genuine kindness were a joy to behold, and he will be deeply missed.

Funeral details for Cash
Saturday, May 4, 2019
Wake: 10:30 am
Funeral: 12:00 pm
The Healing Center Full Gospel Baptist Church, 3885 Tchulahoma Rd, Memphis, TN 38118

Cash McCall
July 1978
Montreux Jazz festival, Switzerland
Photo By Lionel Decoster
Cash McCall
July 2018
Ecko Studio, Memphis
Photo by Nola Blue Records

Born Morris Dollison, Jr. in New Madrid, Missouri on January 28, 1941, Cash McCall spent his early years on Chicago’s North Side.  From there, the family moved to Mississippi, where Cash first learned to play guitar—on a piece of baling wire nailed to the side of their home.  As a young man, he served his country in the US Army, where he was seriously injured while training to be a paratrooper.

After completing his military service, Dollison returned to Chicago where he began his gospel career, singing and playing guitar or electric bass with well-regarded quartets including the Jubilee Hummingbirds, the Pilgrim Jubilees, the Gospel Songbirds, and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.  By 1964, he’d appeared on singles by the Jubilee Hummingbirds and the Gospel Songbirds. 

After dabbling in the secular world as a sideman, Dollison recorded his single, “The Earth Worm,” for One-derful’s M-Pac! imprint.  He continued working for One-derful! as a songwriter & session guitarist, writing several songs for Otis Clay including his hit “That’s How It Is (When You’re In Love)”.  By 1966, Dollison had written a new single, "When You Wake Up," and took it to Thomas Records where he cut it with the house rhythm section.  Later, Monk Higgins added horns and background vocals and Thomas Records issued the single under the fictitious name of Cash McCall. Unbeknownst to Dollison, he learned of his new alias when first hearing his song on WVON radio.  “When You Wake Up” became a national R&B hit.  When Thomas folded in 1967, Higgins convinced McCall to join him at Chess Records. In addition to writing two singles of his own—“S.O.S.” and “It’s Not How Good You Make It”— Cash wrote for many of the label’s major names, including Little Milton (his hits “More And More” and “Let Me Down Easy”), Etta James (“I Prefer You”), and Rotary Connection, as well as Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and many gospel stars. McCall was also a session guitarist on countless Chess/Checker records.

It wasn't until 1974 that McCall released his first full-length album, "Omega Man," on Paula Records (where he also did some producing). When Minnie Riperton offered him a gig as guitarist with Los Angeles-based Rotary Connection, McCall and his wife relocated to L.A.  Cash later released albums "No More Doggin’" for L+R in 1983, "Cash Up Front" on Stone in 1988 and "The Vintage Room" in 2007 on Dixon Landing. His strong connection with Willie Dixon brought McCall one of his proudest moments when he played on Dixon’s Grammy-winning 1988 album "Hidden Charms." He also played on Dixon’s Grammy-nominated soundtrack album "Ginger Ale Afternoon" the next year.

In the early 90’s, McCall and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee.  In 2018, upon reuniting with longtime friend Benny Turner, the two returned to the studio to pay homage to their Windy City Roots on the acclaimed album, "Going Back Home," released on Nola Blue Records in 2019. 

(excerpts from bio by Bill Dahl, Music Journalist, on

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